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Who Just Joined? Video Transcript

Patrick McGarrity:
So we’re going to jump right in and introduce Maria Keller, Tracey Eisman and Don Garlitz. They’re going to present “Who Just Joined?” a discussion on the Forrester Study “The New Unstable Normal: How COVID-19 will change business and technology forever.” You got this, team.

Maria Keller: 
Well, thanks so much, Patrick. I appreciate it. So, hi, everyone. Good morning. Welcome back.

We are excited to share with you today some new results from a study that we commissioned with Forrester Research on how COVID impacted, and actually all the events in 2020, impacted benefits and benefits administration. We had some hypotheses that we wanted to test and we are excited to share those results with you today. I’m joined, as Patrick mentioned, by Tracey Eisman, our Senior Vice President of Channel Partner Operations, and Don Garlitz, our Senior Vice President of Channel Partnerships.

And so I’m going to kick us off and get us started and just sort of level-set a little bit about our survey and what it really entails. So, as I mentioned, you know, we really had some hypotheses that we wanted to test to see how COVID and 2020 accelerated some trends that were already in motion. So, especially the work from home, you know, trend, and also how that affected a couple of things — how it affected the employer-employee relationship, how it affected employees’ perceptions of benefits, and how it affected employer-employee needs when it comes to interacting, managing and accessing benefits.

So, to do this, we conducted a double-blind study with Forrester. And I should mention, these results are pretty recent. We were in the field in February of this year, and so these results we just received a couple of weeks ago. They’re hot off the press. And we are going to be working on some additional materials, specifically a thought leadership paper and additional collateral that’s going to really dive into the data a little deeper. So, today we’re sharing with you those top-line results.

But a little bit more about the survey so I can set that context for you and you can understand who responded and where the data is coming from. We went out to two populations, one, managers and decision-makers in the healthcare and benefits space, so essentially, all of you and your peers. And then also we conducted a parallel survey with employees who were at their company for more than a year and enrolled in their benefits.

So I will share a little bit more about who actually responded. So these are the employees that responded. We got 500 respondents.

And a little bit about them. For our sweet spot, I guess you could say, those that were at their current organization between 4 and 10 years. So that was good, they have some tenure. From an age perspective, that was important to us, they’re from between 30 and 50 years old. And the reason why that was important is because we wanted to make sure we had a good mix of life stages and life events in there.

In terms of organizational size, we did canvass organizations of all sizes. We did want to make sure that we were able to get data cuts and slices that would be applicable for both our channel partners but also for our direct large market clients. And so we – our sweet spot there was between 500 and 5000, from an employee perspective.

And then from an employer perspective, something that’s important to note here is that 61% of the respondents were final decision-makers, and that was really important to us. We wanted to be able to make sure we were talking to people who were very keyed in to the HR and benefit space in their organizations. And we did have folks who are managers and above.

And then from an industry perspective, we thought this was really interesting, we did have a nice mix of technology and retail sector as well as financial services. So we were really happy with sort of the different industry sectors that we got mixed in there.

Okay. So I’m going to kind of start with bottom line on top here. And it’s not going to be a very big surprise probably that, you know, we found that employer and employee needs evolve when it came time – with respect to benefits and technology resulting from 2020. What is really interesting is what changed and how it changed, and that’s really what we’re going to get into with you today.

The other thing we found that was really interesting is that generally employees and employers were very aligned on the priorities. We thought that maybe we’d see a divergence. But truly what employers identified as a need, a gap or a priority, employees almost lined up lockstep.

And I will say, I know I mentioned earlier that we canvassed employers of all sizes, but we found also that employers of all sizes primarily responded in kind. There weren’t huge sweeping swings, depending on employee-employer size. For the most part 2020 had a very similar impact on all.

So we’ll take a quick look at the next layer down, which is one of the areas that we took a quick – that we got into was employer offering versus employer utilization. We also looked at employer toolsets, we looked at employee satisfaction with benefits, and we also looked at employee, I mean, engagement with benefits. So those were the four areas that we really keyed in on.

But starting with offered versus utilized. Employers responded that the top three most common benefits offered were retirement, life insurance, and health insurance, including medical and behavioral. Employees responded that they most use health insurance, paid time off, and dental and vision. This is in 2020, mind you.

So we kind of looked at that a little bit deeper when we were thinking, jeez, she paid time off in 2020, there was no place to go, everything was shut down. But what that really signaled to us, and this is the beginning of a storyline that Don and Tracey are certainly going to pick up on in their segments, that paid time off became especially critical for employees because of some of the additional responsibilities that they were fielding at home.

So, you know, home schooling children or additional childcare responsibilities, and having to balance work and life in a completely new way in 2020. And that led to a level of burnout that came through strong in this survey. And so paid time – so then when we took that into context, you know, the paid time off became a little bit less of a surprise for us.

The other thing this slide is showing is, that we took a look at, was the value of benefits. So, the employer, what employers perceive and why employees – employers perceive employees – the benefits, so, you know, this is the employer perception, sorry. The first part is the employer perception of why employees value benefits. And the second part is why employees say they value benefits.

So, number one for both is that it helps them feel more secure. So that is great, there’s some alignment there. And then number two, from an employer perspective, they’re thinking, well, it’s going to increase my employee satisfaction. But employees said, really our second biggest reason why we value benefits is because it meets the needs of me and my family. So, a little bit of a divergence there.

And I just – I think we would just suggest that it’s a little less about employee satisfaction and a little bit more about meeting the need of the employee and kind of meeting them where they’re at. They’re not necessarily always associating benefits with their employer, from a satisfaction standpoint.

Where they diverge strongly in the survey is around the need for and the offering around telehealth and virtual mental health. So what this slide is saying is that 35% of organizations that responded offer telehealth and 19% offer virtual mental health. And then we took a look at the employee survey and 60, nearly 60%, of employees said they used their telehealth benefit in 2020, and 41% used virtual mental health. And that is a pretty telling story and I think this is where we start to see an evolution of need.

And, you know, we could say, well, you know, 2020 was very unusual. We’re kind of, you know, hopefully seeing the tail-end of the pandemic with the advent of all the vaccines, and as (Chris) shared with us yesterday, how quickly they’re being rolled out, you know. But what we found in the survey was that this isn’t something that we’re going to be able to put in a box and say, okay, we’ll pick it out when the next pandemic comes around.

Actually, employer – employees told us that, you know, they really struggled to access specifically virtual mental health support in 2020. And they – and 60% of them said they will continue to struggle to access them in 2021 and beyond, but yet they want to. So it’s one of those things where this is another one that is here to stay and folks have become acclimated to doing digital health services, but also really are looking for that, especially around the mental health category, which Tracey is going to highlight for us a bit – in a bit.

So, before I go to the next segment, which is talking about how the remote hybrid model is going to shape up – the remote working model is going to shape up in the post-pandemic environment, we’d like to hear from you to see if you sort of match up with our respondents. So if you could take the poll and let us know if you are remote, if you moved to a remote work model in 2020, is it here to stay, whether it’s in hybrid or full?

So, yes, we plan to allow it for at least some employees at least a few days a week. No, we’re going to go back into the office in full. Or, we always have some kind of remote or hybrid model and we’ll continue to do that in the future.

And so we’ll give it a minute for the poll to close and see how you all respond. I would say, you know, I’m expecting to see a mix of A and C, but we’ll see how it comes out.

I’ll give it just another second for you to get your answers in.

And while we are waiting – oh, there it comes. Okay. So, yes is actually the majority. Yes, we plan to allow a remote or a hybrid model for some employees at least a few days a week. That is actually far and away the biggest response.

So that lines up quite nicely, actually, with exactly what we found in our survey, and that is that both employees again and employers are aligned on what remote work should look like or want it to look like in the future or as part of the new normal. So, 74% of employees want some kind of remote work environment, and 70% of employers said that their remote work policy will now be a permanent change.

So, why that’s important is, you know, to think about even in a post-COVID world, and as I mentioned on, you know, the, you know, around the mental health benefits, things aren’t necessarily going back to the way they were before. And so as employers and providers thinking about, okay, well, continuing to have to engage employees remotely, how do we think about our benefits, education and communication strategy in a remote environment? The use of digital healthcare.  What toolsets do we need to continue to offer and reach and engage employees where they are in a remote space?

So the last dataset that I’m going to dig into, before I turn it over to Don to talk to us a little bit about some of the challenges we unearthed, is we took a look at what are the top priorities for employers and employees in the next 12 months, with respect to HR programs and specifically benefits.

So what we found is it was a really clustered set of priorities at the top. So we had to include four, because there really wasn’t very much space, white space, between each of them. So, 90% of employers responded that they wanted to work on their HR team’s and in relevance when engaging with employees.

Eighty-nine percent said making employee help and support desk more effective. Eighty-six percent said enhancing our benefits education program was going to be an emerging priority. And tied with that was, you know, improving employee-facing Web applications. So these are employers’ priorities for the next 12 months, so, going into 2022.

And then from an employee perspective, we asked the same questions so that we could compare. They line up, again, almost in lockstep, with one exception. So, 81% said the employee help desk and support more efficient for me. Improve the effectiveness when communicating with me and engaging with me. Also improve my benefits education program so I can better understand what’s available to me. That was a big one. And then tied with that was focus on my – on improving my well-being. And so that’s really the divergence and that’s the continuation of that well-being thread that you’re going to see throughout this commentary.

What I will say we don’t see at the top of the list that was a bit of a surprise to us, so it’s not because it wasn’t on the list for them to select, was cost. So, keeping healthcare and benefits costs down for employers and employees ranked last on both the employer and employee survey. And that’s not to say that it’s not a priority. It certainly was. Sixty percent of employers responded that it is, continues to be a priority to keep costs down, and 71% of employees responded it’s important to keep costs down. But they ranked last.

And I think the storyline there is really that, while it still is a priority, it has – 2020 has really crowded it, and now we have these other priorities emerging at the top. It’ll be interesting to see if it stays that way, if cost, you know, creeps up as the number one priority again in future years. But certainly in – with, you know, the pandemic in 2020 in the backdrop, it has dropped down for both employers and employees.

So with that, before I turn it to Don, we’re going to do one more poll question, because we were interested to see how our audience stacks up with those priorities and if you are in alignment with what we found through our survey. So, tell us, what are your top priorities over the next 12 months?

Is it, A, keeping costs down? B, expanding our offering to provide employees behavioral and mental health benefits and access? C, improving or enhancing our benefits communication strategy and program? Or, D, expanding our employee engagement efforts and programs?

So I’ll say I don’t – so let’s have you get your answers in, but I’ll now say I don’t have a strong hypothesis on this one. I suppose, if I was a betting woman, I would say it’s, you know, between – spread evenly between B and D. But that’s because I, of course, have the benefit of, you know, all the survey data and research, and so I might be a little bit biased there. But we’ll see. We’ll see how you respond. We’ll give you another minute to get your responses in.

Feel like I should have the Jeopardy music on right now. That would make it easier for me.

All right. Here we are. Okay. So, the majority of you say – oh, actually, you know what? The majority of you said it was expanding our employee engagement efforts and programs. So I think that was, you know, one of those things that all employers struggled with in 2020, excuse me, and now going into 2021, taking a hard look at how we can engage employees in a new way in this new environment.

So, with that, Don, I’m going to send it to you to talk about some of the challenges we found.

Don Garlitz:
Wonderful. Thank you, Maria. And, you know, I just say, when we do studies like this, I love these things because they really allow us to discover, learn new things. And I think as we are going to describe here in the – over next few minutes, we’ve discovered some problems and gaps. But the great thing about that is those things do present opportunities for learning, growth and improvement, which Tracey will cover for us toward the end.

So, let me just first say a recognition that, during the course of the pandemic, at the outset, human resource departments and staff were really thrust into the spotlight in a new way, in a way that maybe they never had been before. They were relied very heavily on by the C suite and other leaders to deliver solutions in a time of crisis.

And, you know, some of those things ranged from, you know, the sudden need to move people to a work-from-home environment. That in and of itself is stressful, just the logistics of it, but also the security concerns around work-from-home. Some of that really came to the surface. There were stresses around how to help employees who were really, you know, sort of confined to quarters at home, how to help them reach their employee benefits, especially healthcare related benefits in a healthcare crisis. So that was a challenge.

There’s also the impact with a number of companies whose businesses were under massive stress, to have to make decisions about furloughing and layoffs and things like that. And there was also the issue of having to deal with COBRA and a lot of the issues, you know, as people were either on, you know, layoff or other employment related decisions. So there was a lot really on the plate of HR departments and we recognize that.

And so what we’ve discovered in this study is some of the issues that really bubbled up. So if we can switch slides. I’ll say, you know, as HR departments were pushed into the spotlight, we know that they had – they were relied on for information so that company leadership could really make some hard decisions. And as they’ve had to make those decisions, what we uncovered here in this study is that the majority, the large majority of employers have reported that, while they weren’t entirely dissatisfied with their technologies and solutions and benefits offerings, they did find that they were not getting the reporting capability that they needed to deliver all of the information to make those decisions.

Another thing that was really important to employers was the issues around cybersecurity. You know, four out of five basically reporting here that there was an increased focus on cybersecurity due to the rise in the remote workforce. I think that makes sense.

So if we can switch slides again. I’d say there, over the course – from the onset of the pandemic, the FBI reported a tripling essentially of the reporting of cybercrimes. And, you know, that’s very interesting. I’d say nearly half of employers stated that they, you know, across the world, not just in the U.S., have stated that they had some kind of a cybersecurity scare once they went into the remote work model.

And, you know, there’s something like 164 million records that were exposed and data issues prior to the pandemic. And so with the pandemic onset and an even greater focus on data security, those numbers have undoubtedly risen. So it’s not surprising to hear that nearly four out of five employers have reported that they don’t feel fully prepared for a security incident and the responses that need to come around that. As a result, they’re spending a ton of money on this. So, nearly $6 trillion is expected to be spent on cybersecurity across the world this year.

So, those things, I think, are very interesting data points, just underscoring the fact that employers are, in fact, concerned about cybersecurity. And we’re delighted at bswift to be one of the leaders in the industry right now in delivering excellent security. But we’re going to talk a little bit more about that in a few minutes.

Another area where we’ve identified some needs is around communication and engagement. So we have realized that both employers and employees say that there are some challenges in benefit communication, that while I think HR departments made fantastic efforts, there was something left to be desired at the employee level.

And also, when it comes to engagement, employees really are saying, hey, I want more information about my benefits, and I had a little trouble during the pandemic in figuring out how to get access to that information. So those are some gaps that I think we need to take to heart and figure out what we can do to improve.

I’d also say that there were some additional concerns that employees expressed around technology specifically. Basically a number of employers have said that they didn’t feel like their benefits technology really met all the needs of their employees, and, you know, employees themselves basically saying, hey, where’s the information? I’m having some trouble getting to the information.

No, I’m a half glass full kind of guy, so I’d say, if you want to look at the positive of this, you know, two out of three employers are saying, hey, we do think that we had an adequate solution around this. But one-third of employers is a lot of people. And to have that many folks feeling like they didn’t really have access to the right kind of information and the best, you know, it wasn’t easy to get to. It wasn’t easy to understand their benefit information.

It just underscores, I think, that when you’re in a crisis mode, you know, it really becomes a question of how do you get to that information as an employee. You know, you’re needing that healthcare related information, can you get to it as easily as you want? And there’s some need around that.

Another thing that we saw here was that there was, you know, I’ll start with this, not too long ago, Bloomberg says – said that across the world and especially in the United States, that employees now in a work-from-home environment are actually working two hours longer every day than they were working when they were in a work in the office environment.

I think that’s a little counterintuitive. I think for years and years employers have kind of thought or assumed or were concerned that, if they had to work-from-home environment, that people would, I don’t know, goof off or not be fully focused, or be distracted. And there’s no doubt that there have been some level of distraction, especially in a situation where employees were required to be, you know, in their homes all the time. A lot of other things going on in the home, children to manage, etcetera.

But, you know, I think what we’ve seen through this is, with that extra pressure of having to deal with children at home, adjustments to the work space, in some cases having more than one professional in the home needing to, you know, divvy up the space in the house and how do you – how do you work and not step all over each other, etcetera? Those kinds of things have led to an increasing concern around employee burnout. So you can see here that both employees and employers, about 9 out of 10, report that there have been some issues around that, that have had to be dealt with.

We also see, again, some needs where traditional methods of reaching employees and engagement have not been available because of the pandemic. And so, you know, the other thing I would I would note about this is, when an employer suddenly realizes that they need better solutions than they’ve had in the past, when it comes to something like benefits technology, this kind of stuff doesn’t turn on a dime. I mean, you can’t just like sort of suddenly wake up one day and decide you want to change benefits technologies and just snap, do that all overnight. I mean, these things take months and months of planning and execution.

So when this thing happened in March, it was almost too late to get for a lot of large employers to even make any changes to those solutions. And so they had to ride out what they had. But we definitely see that there were some unmet needs around engagement that have surfaced in this study.

Another thing was just the fallout from burnout I think to a large extent and a lot of the stress of the unknown. It was the stress of, is my health going to be okay? Are my loved ones are going to be okay? I’ve got this new work environment, everything’s topsy turvy. That was just a lot of stress for people to kind of absorb. And so the need for mental health support has really surfaced. And that’s been a perception by both employees and employers. So I think those are big, big things that I think we need to deal with.

So what I’d like to do is take a moment in a survey with you and have you weigh in for us. Now, we’ve identified three key things here. I’d like you to tell us, of the three things that I just described, which of these do you think is the biggest challenge that’s emerged for your company since 2020? So the three options you’ve got, jump over to the right, make a selection, and hit the submit button.

Would it be – would you say that your biggest challenge would be handling employee burnout? It would be A. B would be communicating with and engaging your employees in a virtual environment out of necessity? Or would it be C, helping your people access mental health benefits? Which are those three things would you say would be your top items? Let’s see what you have to say here.

I’m going to – I don’t  actually have data from our study to compare which of these three things is the top, other than the numbers we just looked at. I’d say they’re all really high. I think employee burnout would probably be my guess to be the number one, but I’m guessing it’s going to be split pretty closely across the three. But let’s take a look and see what you guys have to say.

All right. So we have our results back. And of the roughly 80 people who have responded, about half of you said it was employee burnout, and most of the rest of you said it was really the issue of how do we communicate and engage in a virtual environment. So, very interesting feedback from you. Thank you for that. I appreciate that feedback.

You know, I’d say just to kind of wrap things up, I do see some good news here in this study. Not everything has been negative coming out of this pandemic. So, first of all, I’d say we are definitely moving in the right direction in terms of employees’ perceptions of the value of their benefit programs. About 7 out of 10 have reported that they think that their benefits have increased or gotten better since 2019 through to 2021. That’s great news, right? I mean, that’s a signal, a very strong signal to employers of appreciation. Employees do recognize the value of their benefits now more than ever, especially with the pandemic. And so that’s very positive, I think.

And another thing that occurred through the pandemic is that about two-thirds of employees said they were less likely to leave their job because of concerns over job stability. And so I think that, you know, we’ll see I think as 2021 rolls out and things open back up again, does that stick? But certainly, I think during 2020, there is a higher-than-average – higher than previous, you know, perception by employees that they were going to stick their jobs through, you know. So that was – I think that’s a piece of good news largely for employers at the time.

We do have some additional work to do. So, about four out of five employee – employers are saying that they’re seeking some increases in coverage. And employees are saying that, yes, while we do appreciate our benefits more than ever, about 7 out of 10 are saying we would like to see our benefits increased, especially due to the pandemic. So there’s still – it’s kind of a – I don’t think it’s – I don’t think that’s a conflicting message. It’s a message of, hey, we appreciate what you’ve done for us so far, but we need you to do more. So there’s certainly a mandate there, I think, for employers to take a look at their benefit offerings and see what they can do to improve them.

So, in sum, I would just say, coming back to it, the main challenges I think we’ve uncovered in this study have been around reporting, data reporting for HR departments in particular. We’ve uncovered the very important need of cybersecurity. We’ve talked about some lack in the communications delivery efforts of employers, especially around benefits. And then we’ve talked a little bit about burnout, mental health and virtual engagement needs. And so I think the takeaway is employees appreciate what they have, but they want more.

So, Tracey, let me shift it over to you to take a look at what we can do to turn some of these challenges into opportunities.

Tracey Eisman: 
Okay. Thanks so much, Don. So, you know, you’ve heard from Maria about what we intended to look at and why. And, you know, both Don and Maria have talked through findings here. And Don just summarized really what the key challenges for employees and employers. So the question is, where do you go from here to strengthen your toolset and improve your employee experience?

You know, we’ve come up with about five areas of focus, so let’s talk through that a bit. If we could go to the next slide. Thanks so much.

So, number one, leveraging your technology toolsets to improve the benefits experience. You know, just to call back something Maria said, 42% of both employers and employees agreed that ben admin and a more streamlined benefits process would be valuable. So this is good news, right? Why? Because there’s alignment on the need and the value.

Employers see these as advantages to clarifying the offering, you know, contributing to utilization. You know, most people are going to enroll on something they don’t understand or at least don’t see the value of, don’t understand the value of. So, addressing technology gaps improves the healthcare experience and navigating benefits.

Employees agree. They stress that this will increase their understanding and their connection to the benefits. And they also say this will give employers an opportunity to support enhancements in their offering moving forward. So, to better connect with your employees, increase your enrollment and your utilization, and to create more connection to the employee’s healthcare experience, make sure you’re leveraging those benefit technology toolsets.

It may seem obvious, but once you have those then admin toolsets, if we could pop to the next slide, Maria, thanks so much, you’re going to want to use those tools to improve your offerings and your utilization. So, make sure you have that strong report. You know, Don talked about there being a gap or a lack in the reporting that a lot of our HR colleagues have, not only on enrollment but on utilization data.

And employees reported using benefits in new ways and being more in tune with benefit options because of the pandemic. This is important information for employers to understand about their employees. Employers and HR specifically have the attention of their employees now. So now’s the time to use that attention, right? Use the enrollment and the utilization reports provided by your benefits technology vendors to give you insight into how your products are being used, how your offerings are being used. That information will help you adjust your offerings in response to your changing employee needs, just as many did this past year with newer telehealth and virtual mental health offerings.

Also remember that benefits go a long way towards employees feelings of security, satisfaction, and their own ability to meet their family needs and keep them safe. So, employers and folks who are working with employers, work with your providers to help understand the reporting that’s available to you. Make sure you’re asking for that reporting and getting it in a cadence that works for you to find that cadence of the reporting to best inform your strategy going forward and to give you the time you need to do that.

Let’s go to the next slide, Maria, if you don’t mind. So we’re going to do a poll now, and let’s see how consistent your responses are to those we saw in our study. Did you see an increase in utilization of telehealth and/or virtual mental health programs in 2020? A is yes, B is no, C is you don’t know, you haven’t gotten the reports on utilization or maybe you don’t have access to that data.

Let’s see what you all have to say. And we’ll give it another minute. And I agree with Maria the Jeopardy music would be fabulous right now. Give it another sec here.

I don’t think we’ll be surprised to see an increase. We certainly saw an increase of the – on the employee side in terms of who was really leveraging those programs that were available to them. Well, let’s see what you guys all have to say, and gals.

All right. So, yes. So, you know, of the 70 or so people who responded, about 50 of those people said yes there was. And then actually 20 said, or just under 20, said don’t know, don’t have access to that data. So that sounds pretty consistent with what we’re – very consistent with what we’re seeing in the Forrester study results.

You know, 35% of employers reported offering telehealth and 19 reported offering virtual mental health. Fifty-nine percent of employees reported using telehealth, and 41% said they use virtual mental health. So, perhaps this information will help you or the employers you work with to make some additions to their benefit offerings for this coming plan year. You know, once we have that data, we want to make sure we’re talking to our employees about it.

So, number three, evaluate and improve your communications strategy. You know, really, Maria should be talking about this because she does this incredibly well for us here at bswift. And one of the things she talked about is that 82% of employers feel the pandemic caused them to approach employee communications with more empathy. But there’s still you know, there’s still a discrepancy there. There’s still a gap. Employees say they need more. Seventy-three percent of employees want their company to take a more empathetic approach to HR communications.

You know, the opportunity and the – what we can do about this though is leverage this. There’s a level of awareness here that we haven’t experienced before. This can be used as a catalyst to improve things. So we want to take advantage of this. Your employees are listening. And you can use this as a springboard to create a more meaningful conversation with your employees.

So you want to hear this, not only to talk to your employees, but to listen to your employees and to talk with your employees. You know, 28% of employers have a formal process in place for gathering feedback from all employees.  Only 28% of employers. That’s a great opportunity. Make that part of your action plan.

You know, and unsurprisingly, you know, like we said, the stats show employees don’t feel good, so you’ve got a great opportunity in front of you to improve the way you’re, you know, eliciting feedback from your employees and the way that you are talking to them about how you’re responding to that feedback.

So, how? Why don’t you look at the information that you have? Enrollment. And like we said, you know, enrollment and utilization data. Employee surveys, sure. Annual is good, but even better is if you can do short and more regular pulse surveys to check in on specific topics, especially HR related. And, you know, you can’t discount, of course, that one-on-one feedback and feedback from roundtable discussions that we know is prevalent in the environment, especially escalated feedback. But you do want to validate that more broadly through maybe some of those shorter or more frequent pulse surveys that you could do.

You know, other things to do. Look at usage logs and questions you received from your training materials, those things that you offer online. Can you look and see how many people are really leveraging that material? Is that of value to them? If it isn’t, why? Why is it not working? And what can you do to change that?

And then, you know, look at the call dispositions or topics or questions you’re receiving on your HR service center call lines. Or maybe through your service center partner. You know, what are the things that they’re hearing? And how can you do a better job communicating those things to your employees?

You’re going to want to use a combination of these, right? To better understand what your specific population needs are and to contribute to how to drive your communications strategy by answering what people need and what they want to know more about and how often.

And just a few more things to remember before we go on. You don’t want to assume your employees know about all the great work you’re doing to support them. You know, maybe that’s partly where that gap comes in the employer feeling that they’re being more empathetic and the employees feeling they need more. Perhaps you really are but they just don’t know it, and you need to communicate more about that.

So, make your communication plan consistent. Develop a regular and dependable cadence. Is it monthly, is it quarterly, more or less for your community? And, you know, develop some sort of scorecard or regular way that you’re talking about it that allows you to consistently share both the employee feedback and the growing progress towards those goals. And use that same tool time over time so that your employees can see the progress against the last time you talked about things and tie it directly back to their feedback.

Let’s see. A couple of other things. And I really think that talks directly to tying things directly back to what your employees talked about. You know, a clear statement, something like “You asked for this, we heard you, and here’s what we can or will do,” is a message that can go a long way both in showing empathy and in serving the population and connecting the dots for them.

And lastly, there is a difference between communicating information about the pandemic, about its impact on the business, your clients, and the potential changes to the office environment, and providing communications that make employees feel heard about their challenges and how you will help with those. So that’s an important distinction to make and we would encourage you to consider that in your overall communication strategy, perhaps even considering separating those messages or at least the way you deliver them, just to help employees know that they are a priority too and that they’re not sort of lumped in with those other things. Because those other things are very important too, right? But it’s something that we would strongly advise you consider.

Let’s go to the next slide here. You know, one thing that could help too, especially with regards to burnout, which, you know, we heard from both Don and Maria is the number one thing that employees and employers are thinking about moving forward here, is to create a stepped approach to self-wellness, to help the employee population.

So, employees are burned out, they’re struggling to engage with employers virtually. Employers feel similarly in terms of it’s a struggle to engage with employees virtually. Seventy-nine percent employees asked for assistance in focusing on their well-being. Right? So, employers and employees both need help here.

You know, Don referenced that Bloomberg study where Americans are working an average of two additional hours per day, more work occurring, and add to that the adjustments we’ve needed to make to manage work, new at-home pressures, the stress of the unknown. It’s not surprising, right?

But maybe supporting employees differently means looking at a range of support ideas. You know, empathy can be expressed in a number of ways. You can do things like increase your employee appreciation efforts. You can validate what you’re hearing back. And you can ask for employee feedback to assist in driving even small changes in direct support to that feedback.

You know, Patrick McGarrity talked about this a little bit when he talked about, you know, us trying to look at how we were going to shift everything to be virtual and not really knowing how long this was going to be and what we were going to do about it. And one of the things Patrick did was reach out to people that were starting to do things on their teams in smaller groups and say, “Let’s share those ideas and let’s let those ideas be things that other teams can pick up on and take in and leverage themselves if they feel that’s the best way to help their team, you know, succeed virtually.”

So it’s not necessarily always about an architected solution that works for every single person that same at the company. It can be about having a, you know, a multitude of options or even just sharing some of the things are working to give people ideas for their own teams.

You know, one thing that surprises me is, when I read through our Officevibe feedback, we use a tool called Officevibe here at bswift, and that allows us to get feedback on a weekly basis from a smattering of our employees. And I’m regularly humbled, honestly, to be reminded that some of our people need a reminder that it’s okay to stand up and step away and take a walk or take a break from their screens and their phones.

You know, I regularly now, not on a dependable cadence or not on a, you know, a scheduled cadence, but I do regularly now try to find articles that I can share with my team about taking a break, or even just send a note saying “Here’s a TEDTalk. If this isn’t your thing, that’s okay. Use this as a reminder to stand up, go fill your coffee, make a quick personal call to say hi to somebody, take a walk, you know, with your dog, or do what you need to do to just take a breath today,” you know. So I would say, you know, our people are working so hard and they’re working longer hours, you know, remind them that it’s okay to get up and take a step away.

You know, Patrick talked also yesterday about the benefits of our Minute To Win It contest and how even that one minute of standing up and moving away from your desk just to throw a piece of ping pong ball onto a piece of bread with peanut butter and to see who could make it happen first, even just that, you know, two or three minutes that we have there, can be so valuable. Right?

So it doesn’t always have to be something like that. But, you know, think about ways that your team can do something that way. Or maybe invite your team to come up with things for themselves to do, and share those more broadly.

You know, we also looked in Don’s poll there about, you know, or maybe it was Maria’s, pardon me, about the return to office strategies. You know, one of the things you probably want to consider is that one size is probably not going to fit all for your return to office strategy either. Some people are going to be a lot more comfortable returning in the short term and others will not be. Some will have to deal with at-home care issues and virtual schooling for – or even summer, you know, at-home care, and program issues that other people won’t have to deal with. And so, offering flexible work environments and work strategies or schedule strategies will be really valuable to your employees.

We’re doing a study right now or a survey right now here at bswift to better understand how our people are feeling about that and how they feel they’ve been able to support clients. And, you know, we’re getting a variety of responses in terms of how people – what people are really missing in terms of that partnership from the office or the resources from the office.

It’s one thing for us to remember too that a lot of engagement comes from being at the office and being around your best friend at the office, and that that can help retain our employees. And so we’ve got to figure out how to offer a variety of options for people to come back to service all those needs that they feel.

The other thing we heard loud and clear here was top priority of both employers and employees to improve HR helpdesk and benefits education programs, as well as employee facing apps and Web sites and education programs.

So, harkening back to one of the things I said during communications, you’re really going to want to look at that data from your current HR programs, from the way your current materials are being used by your population, the questions you’re getting in your call centers, your service centers, and use that to improve what you’re offering, and don’t, you know, don’t be afraid to ask your employees for help there, especially the ones who are the most critical. Sometimes those – getting those people to engage and help us make things better can make it better for everybody. And also make that employee, in particularly, feel heard and validated and encouraged to continue making things better and be solution oriented.

You know, I think there are more traditional things out there, of course, to consider, including like virtual fitness programs, other things we’re seeing out there right now, our virtual company 5Ks, virtual company walks, you know. And certainly there are a lot of apps out there that you could probably subsidize as part of your program if you don’t have something already. Excuse me.

And then, of course, we’re hearing telehealth, virtual mental health support, in addition to your EAPs, is definitely being utilized where it’s being offered. So we would strongly encourage a consideration there if that’s not something you’re using.

Like I said, you don’t have to use each and every thing on a list. What’s important is to provide a varying array of ways for your employees to step back in and take care of themselves to address their burnout. And by broadening your approach and offering less time-consuming and more involved options, you’ll be providing for the larger population. You know, it’s clear we will all be working on this in 2021 and likely for years to come.

Let’s go to number five in our plan, not directly related to the people piece of this that we’ve been speaking about here for the last few slides, but obviously very important. Don talked about cybercrime being on the rise. The FBI said it’s, you know, it’s tripling here, or at least the, you know, the reports of cyber threats are tripling. And with 82% of employers more focused on data security due to the rise in remote work, you know, this is only going to increase. Right?

So, most employers don’t feel prepared for a response to a cyber threat. That’s something you can prepare for. You can prepare for this by ensuring that you understand the data security protocols of your benefit technology partner. So, talk with your vendors to confirm they have enhanced security measures in place. Pardon me.

You know, ask questions. This is your opportunity to ask questions about how your data secureness is being monitored, how it’s being measured, what’s the plan to support any potential threat. And then you can agree together on how you’re going to respond to security inquiries and concerns. And then use that information to help employers and employees and your clients know that this is being proactively monitored and managed on their behalf.

That’s it for our five opportunities today. But definitely keep an eye out for additional insights and findings as we continue to cull through these Forrester findings.

You know, with that, we will open it up for questions.

Maria Keller:    
Thank you so much, Tracey. We don’t have very much time for questions today, but if you want to submit them, we’ll certainly get back to you. I would just say keep an eye out for some of the collateral and materials and the white paper that I mentioned earlier. They’ll certainly be coming your way in the coming weeks.